One More Step in Ecumenical Dialogue

From Nigeria to Germany, from Italy to Bolivia, inumerable initiatives fruit of an ecumenism of life that took place during the recent Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25.

basilica buildingFrom Onitsha, Nigeria, a report about a prayer service that was held in the churchyard of the Basilica of the Most Blessed Holy Trinity, on January 23 with over a hundred Evanglicals, Pentecostals, Catholics and members of autonomous churches, along with two bishops and several priests of different churches in Nigeria. The event was promoted by the Focolare and included representatives from the CCN (non-denominational churches), OAIC (churches and organisations begun in Africa), PFN (Pentecostal churches),  CSN (Catholic Church) and ECWA/TEKAN (Evangelical Churches from the west of Africa and Ghana). Some gathered with the music groups, others prepared the programme booklet and others decorated the churchyard. The teaching was given by an Anglican Pastor who like a “clarion call that would wake up the Christians of Nigeria from their sleep” invited us all to “live as the followers of Christ and to work of unity in diversity.” “We prayed with one soul and one mind,” one girl commented. “I felt the warmth of the Spirit in our midst.” A young man: “Watching people from different churches praying together for unity and peace gave me the certainty that unity will happen, because Jesus himself had asked the Father that all would be one.”

Ottma1From the Focolare’s ecumenical town in Ottmaring, Germany, on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a gathering was held that included 7 Swedish Lutheran pastors, 4 Anglicans, one English Reformed pastor and 7 Catholic priests. The theme was presented by Lutheran bishop Ake di Skara from Sweden, who highlighted how today Jesus is still drawn to the wounds and darkness of humanity, in order to bring it light. With this in mind everyone moved to the nearby Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, which is an emblematic symbol of the mystery of Jesus Forsaken. There were also several visits to significant sites for the Lutheran faithful in Augsburg, concluding with a break at the Catholic church dedicated to St. Moritz, with its striking image of Christ the Saviour who illuminates the world’s darkness. In an atmosphere of such deep sharing, the liturgical celebrations throughout the week took on an altogether unique sacredness. In the end there was a unanimous desire to: “return to the world where Jesus Forsaken is waiting for me.” “The Church has to be where the wounds of the people are to be found.” “When I get home the first thing I’ll do will be to visit the Lutheran pastor next door.”  

In Matera, Italy, we met up with Cinzia who, since she embraced the spirituality of unity, has been promoting an ecumenical process in her parish in collaboration with a Lutheran pastor: “They’re beautiful evenings and filled with much joy,” she recounts, “in which what comes to light is not what divides us, but what unites us. An ecumenical choir was born from the 1997 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which accompanies the different cultural and humanitarian projects we do together. This year, in collaboration with the associations and movements in the city, we held a march for peace and unity with 300 people from different Christian denominations and from other religions. It was another opportunity to experience the ecumenism of life and to express that deep desire for brotherhood that goes beyond the distinctions.”

The parish of Santa Maria in Pesaro, Italy, shares an ecumenical friendship with the Orthodox Cathedral of Resita, Romania, thanks to the parish priests and several lay people who live the spirituality of unity. “This year,” one Romanian Orthodox teenager recounts, “we wanted to take a further step. The young people wanted to be involved in the formation of the children, so we began a course in Pesaro for Catholic and Orthodox animators together where we experience our unity in diversity.”

In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was also celebrated by the different movements, including the Focolare. Members of the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic Churches took part in an ecumenical prayer service, with the emeritus bishop who remembered the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and invited everyone to embrace mercy and a renewed commitment to work for unity.